Now that the Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League is over until the Knockout Round kicks off in February, it’s perfect timing to give a report card for FOX’s new soccer TV experience called MultiMatch 90, which was quietly debuted in September.
The concept of MultiMatch 90 is to mimic a similar experience that NFL fans enjoy with the RedZone channel where instead of broadcasting one live UEFA Champions League game, FOX Sports offers a broadcast that jumps around from live game to game when anything exciting or of note happens such as goals, free kicks, red cards, etcetera.
The challenge with soccer is that it’s more spontaneous and unpredictable than gridiron football, so it makes the job for the producer that much more challenging to pick and choose which live moments to show in key games.
Having said that, FOX Sports’ MultiMatch 90 is the best and most unique coverage that the network has offered soccer fans since FOX killed FOX Soccer in September 2013.
Here are the highs and lows of the MultiMatch 90 service:
1. John Strong and Ross Dyer
Without a doubt, FOX Sports made the perfect decision in hiring John Strong and Ross Dyer to host the broadcasts of MultiMatch 90. The very talented Strong has been hosting the majority of MultiMatch 90 broadcasts, but the recent addition of Ross Dyer has been a sound move.
Between the two of them, there’s no drop off in quality, and both men are sincere, listenable and know their soccer.
Rating (hosts): A-
2. It’s a better overall experience
Some soccer fans may be aghast, but following UEFA Champions League coverage with MultiMatch 90 is a better viewing experience for the person at home. There’s no feeling that you’re missing out on a stellar match on another channel. You can sit back and just simply enjoy the soccer.
There are times when producers will go to a specific moment in the game hoping that something will happen, such as a corner kick or free kick, but these more often than not fizzle out into nothing, and the show loses some momentum as a result.
Rating (overall experience): B+
3. Perfect for neutral soccer fans
If you have no horse in the race when watching UEFA Champions League and you just want to watch the best moments from 90 minutes of soccer and be on top of everything that happened in all of the games, MultiMatch 90 is perfect.
If your team is playing, then you’re still better off watching the full 90 minutes of your favorite club and leaving MultiMatch 90 for everyone else.
Rating (appeal to soccer fans): A
4. No talking heads, just soccer
As we’ve described countless times, one of the most frustrating aspects of FOX’s soccer coverage is the lack of quality, knowledge and preparedness by the talent in the studio. FOX Sports has made baby steps in its soccer coverage, but the advantage of MultiMatch 90 is that it’s pure entertainment without the talking heads. There’s no annoying banter. It’s just pure soccer with either Strong or Dyer guiding you through the best moments of games.
Rating (analysis): A+
I can’t help but wonder whether FOX Sports may consider implementing MultiMatch 90 for other coverage in the future other than UEFA Champions League. ESPN has done Whiparound Coverage for World Cup qualifiers in the past.
Can FOX Sports do something similar for its FA Cup coverage especially during the Third or Fourth Rounds where there are large amounts of games being played simultaneously. Or can FOX do the same next season for Women’s World Cup games or Gold Cup games that are played simultaneously? The options are numerous.
Rating (uniqueness): B+ (very promising)
It feels like a fresh, new soccer-friendly FOX Sports production
From the graphics, enthusiasm and expert coverage, MultiMatch 90 feels like a more positive soccer production from FOX Sports where producers have been given an opportunity to spearhead a project that they believe in.
Everything about MultiMatch 90 feels new, and it doesn’t come with the baggage of the soccer coverage than be found on FOX Sports 1 or FOX Sports 2.
For FOX Sports, MultiMatch 90 is a big step forward.
1. Only available on FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2GO
For everything good about MultiMatch 90, it’s currently only available to a slim number of soccer fans in the United States who are subscribed to either FOX Soccer Plus or FOX Soccer 2GO.
Since launching almost five years ago, FOX Soccer Plus still isn’t available on many TV providers including Comcast xFinity in some regions. And FOX Soccer 2GO, while a much improved product, doesn’t offer the quality of top soccer coverage since FOX Sports lost the US Internet rights to the Premier League, Serie A and Ligue Un.
Rating (for availability): C-
2. Doesn’t justify subscription cost
While MultiMatch 90 is wonderful, there are — at best — only six days during each month where MultiMatch 90 is going to be available (when there are UEFA Champions League matches being played in the Group Stage, for example).
If you’re paying $19.99 per month, is it really worth it for 4-6 times a month for MultiMatch 90 alone? And don’t forget that there’s no UEFA Champions League coverage until February, so there are gaps during the calendar where there’s no MultiMatch 90 coverage available at all.
Rating (for value): C
3. It’s only a godsend during Group Stage matches
The biggest issue I have with MultiMatch 90 is that the program only truly serves its purpose when there are multiple matches being played concurrently.
So in the case of the UEFA Champions League, MultiMatch 90 is brilliant during the months of September through December, but serves little purpose for the Knockout Round through until the Champions League Final because the Round of 16 games from February through March will only feature two games being played at the same time. Flipping from FOX Sports 1 to FOX Sports 2 with a remote control would be better than MultiMatch 90 for these matches.
For FOX, the expense to run MultiMatch 90 must be quite considerable given the amount of work that’s necessary to pull it off. While it may have a small impact on helping to generate more subscriptions to FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2GO, I would have to believe that the gains would be negligible given the expense and resources needed to pull MultiMatch 90 off.
Rating (purposefulness): D
A positive step forward
While MultiMatch 90 isn’t perfect given the lack of availability of the service to soccer fans, the hard work could be more beneficial if MultiMatch 90 makes its debut on FOX Sports 2 or another FOX channel in the future where some viewers would enjoy the live whiparound coverage instead of focusing on just one match.
FOX Sports has a hit on its hands if it can figure out a way to market it correctly and using it sparingly where viewers will see the most benefit.